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5-Minute Fitness: Calf Raises for Leg Strength

Published: August 14, 2013

Calf muscles are largely underused and often out of play for several hours a day while we sit at desks and workstations, and in cars, trains, and airplanes, writes celebrity health and fitness coach Lani Muelrath, who recommends this two-part energizing exercise and stretch from her new book Fit Quickies (Alpha).

Fit Quickie #10: Legs into Play

“Legs into Play is my go-to choice for warm-up and instant invigoration in less than two minutes,” writes Muelrath. “Slip in this exercise before doing more demanding leg exercises to be sure your knees and leg muscles are ready for action.”

woman holding exercise bar stretching calves

For position one, keep feet parallel and directly below your hips.

Position One

1. Stand with feet 4 or 5 inches apart with shoulders back, abdominals firm, and hands touching a high-back chair, countertop edge, or dance bar.

2. Keeping glutes tight, use calf muscles to rise up onto balls of feet.

3. Tap heels to floor two times, then rise up onto balls of feet again by sharply contracting calf muscles. Repeat 8 times. Each sequence should take about 2 seconds.

4. Return to position described in Step 1. Then, repeat Step 2.

5. Tap heels to floor once (instead of twice), then rise up onto balls of feet. Repeat 8 times. Each sequence should take about one second.

woman holding exercise bar stretching calves

For position two, turn out toes at 90-degree angle.

Position Two

1. Stand with feet flat on floor, close together and touching, with shoulders back, abdominals firm, and hands touching a high-back chair, countertop edge, or dance bar. Keeping heels together, pivot feet outward from each other until you form a 90-degree angle at the point where your heels touch.

2. Keeping glutes tight, use calf muscles to rise up onto balls of feet.

3. Tap heels to floor once, then rise up onto balls of feet by sharply contracting calf muscles. Repeat 16 times. Each sequence should take about one second.

woman stretching calf

For the well-deserved stretch, keep your toes pointing straight ahead.

Stretch

1. Stand with feet flat on floor and parallel, and hands touching a high-back chair, countertop edge, or dance bar.

2. Step right foot straight back behind you, about 2 or 3 feet. Keep toes of back foot pointing straight ahead so you’ll be stretching right leg directly through center of calf muscles.

3. Keeping upper body strong and right heel pressed toward floor, gently lean forward toward your support. What’s important is feeling the stretch, not how far you go.

4. Move to the edge of the stretch, breathe, and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

5. Repeat stretch with other leg.

Tips and Modifications
1. This exercise is so targeted, you’ll feel it in your calves quite quickly. If finishing all the repetitions in correct form isn’t possible, stop, do the stretch, and work your way up to more repetitions next time.

2. Fit Quickie #10 is a must for airplane travel, as many health dangers are associated with sitting for extended periods of time, such as on a flight. In a pinch, you can even do this one sitting down in your airplane seat, working your calves from your bent knees down.

Fit Quickie #10: Legs into Play is excerpted from Lani Muelrath’s Fit Quickies: 5-Minute, Targeted Body-Shaping Workouts, published by Alpha Books. Copyright 2013 by Lani Muelrath. All rights reserved.


Watch a simple how-to video with Invoke Studio instructor Molly Tittle to learn how to do this exercise.

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